Scum’s Wish: An Exercise In Self-Aware Shamelessness

The sad thing is, this is very tame compared to stuff that uses sex as a main element of the plot like Shameless.

Scum’s Wish is interesting. The characters are very theatrical about relationships and the humor is a bit lame, but it adds a subversive take to the whole anime romance genre that’s not played off as a joke. It’s very self-aware about how awful its characters are, but it doesn’t let that get in the way of succumbing to their desires. I’m not sure if I can call the behavior in this show adult, but it’s certainly not childish. There are, of course, compromises you have to make when showcasing an anime on broadcast TV, like how I don’t expect to see a yaoi relationship thrown into the mix of lesbianism, onii-chan adoration, and the “kinda-sex friends” stuff that make up the main plot of the show. Still, the majority of this show is focused on a unique aspect of relationships without being overblown in a K-drama sort of way and the visual style is definitely nice to watch – especially considering how cheap Lerche usually is.

To my knowledge, usually when you see something like Scum’s Wish, it’s only in trashy teen movies, NTR hentai, and those kinda-adult/kinda-not smut manga like Nozoki Ana with the sex mostly getting in the way of taking it seriously. The Aku no Hanas and Oyasumi Punpuns of the world are exceedingly rare in their original medium, and getting one on broadcast TV is an even more daunting task. I’m not saying Scum’s Wish is on their level or anything (it’s not), but it’s definitely doing something it can claim as its own. We’ll just have to see in the future if it can keep that up as it goes on or turn into another shallow weep-fest that most promising romance anime end up degenerating into.

Look at that cute face. How can any man resist?

Our lead couple is a girl named Hanabi Yasuraoka and a boy named Mugi Awaya with the premise of the show being that they’re using each other to ease their loneliness whilst pining for their true loves: two young adult teachers who they knew growing up. The two swear off having actual sex with each other while in their so-called relationship, but as time progresses, it soon becomes clear that said promise isn’t working out all that well. After all, these two aren’t exactly your normal anime teenagers, whether it be the stupidly chaste kinds that make up the majority of most romantic comedy leads or the really horny ones that I don’t even want to dwell on. They’re basically nasty people who know how nasty they are, but doesn’t let that get in the way of being nasty. And it benefits them in a way, because it turns out that everyone they know thinks the same way.

While we don’t know much about Narumi Kanai, the object of Hanabi’s affection as well as her “onii-chan”, as of this time of writing, the same can’t be said of the woman he’s dating. It turns out that Mugi’s crush, a music teacher named Akane Minagawa, is one of those women who dates men for the sole purpose of hurting those who also like the men she’s with. She actually started this fucked-up way of life back in her school days when she ended up stealing the attention of a dude her friend had a crush on, and her relationship with Narumi is mostly due to noticing the little high school girl that’s been keeping a close eye on him as of late. It’s not a very faithful relationship either, as she’s been sleeping with another student behind Narumi’s back, although she’s gotten bored with that relationship when said student reveals that he broke up with his girlfriend. Kinda reminds me of that one girl from Uwakoi who only has sex with males in a relationship and has a T-shirt that says “I love fuck“.

Yes it’s true. This man has no nipples.

I’m very doubtful that Mugi himself is aware of this, although it’s likely he wouldn’t care too much because his record isn’t clean either. It’s revealed pretty early on that he’s not a virgin, and while the show hasn’t really given much insight on what happened during his first time, it’s hinted at that it wasn’t a very clean relationship (edit: actually, I’ve been informed that the girl saw it as fun while he saw it as more serious, which is pretty much all you need to know about how that turned out). Also, his apparent crush on Akane isn’t stopping him from forcing Hanabi to feel his morning wood or doing so much foreplay to her body that I’m almost sure there’s implied sex that goes on after a scene ends. Simply put, he’s a horny teenager who doesn’t really know love so much as cares about fulfilling basic male desires (edit: even his want for something more romantic with the music teacher is still layered with hormones). And that’s fine for a kid his age as long as he doesn’t go too far with it, which doesn’t seem to have happened as all of his activities with females seem to be consensual so far. It really makes him feel like a more relatable teenage male underneath his theatrical way of thinking.

I’m not so big into his female childhood friend, who acted more boyish as a kid, but became more girlish in order to impress him. She feels like a comic relief character who mainly exists for Hanabi to show her “superiority”, and she’s definitely not a funny one. As such, I’m not interested in focusing on her.

Hanabi’s only female friend who has a crush on her, Sanae Ebato aka Ecchan, feels extraneous too, but she’s more tolerable in that she actually adds to Hanabi’s character in some unique ways. For starters, the fact that Hanabi is reclusive to the point that she doesn’t have any friends outside of the main cast really says a lot about her off-putting personality and why it’d be difficult for her to move on from her onii-chan even if she could. Sure she’s seeing Mugi now, but it’s very unclear how she really feels about him either as a friend or a lover, plus I doubt any male that’s not Mugi would be able to see her as anymore than a sex object if they were interested in her. And while it’s not a very good justification for why Ecchan just happens to be gay for her, you could argue that the reason a female lover was introduced to the mix was an effective way to show just how little control Hanabi has over her own wants and desires.

I wonder how many dropped the show after this scene?

In one of her internal monologues, Hanabi states that a small part of her longs to move on from her crush, but it’s hard to tell whether it’s that or her own dark nature that fuels the relationship she has with Mugi and the much more physical one she recently started with Ecchan. In fact, I doubt even she knows. You don’t exactly go from having a straight crush to sleeping with a member of the same sex with a clear mind. Hell, having rebound sex with anyone doesn’t speak well for your mental health in general. It’s definitely not a situation I’d want to be in, but it does raise a lot of storytelling possibilities. What exactly does Hanabi’s “onii-chan” mean to her now? Who exactly is she willing to hurt to be with him? How can she even think of being in love with someone when she can’t even love herself?

It’s the fact that I can even ask questions like this that really make me interested in this main couple, both as individuals and when they’re together. The people surrounding them are hit-and-miss, but the show maintains a majority of its focus on the two leads, so it’s not too big a deal. In a way, Scum’s Wish’s appeal is the same as Spice & Wolf’s or Crest of the Star’s in that most people watch ’em for the interactions between the main couple and how it tickles their shipping side. Obviously I’m interested in what’s coming from the interactions rather than the interactions themselves, as I think character banter for its own sake is unfulfilling junk food, and I’m not really sure if I’m all that interested in whether the main couple stays together or not. At the same time though, I’m not really interested in seeing them break up as of yet either. Yes I do like romance stories where the main couple can’t work things out, but it has to earn that ending the same way every other good story earns theirs. And there’s still more ways these characters can benefit from each other before the show ends.

But when you get down to it, it’s really the self-aware nature this show has in regards to its subject material that appeals to me the most. It’s very refreshing to see people staring at their faults whilst being confused on how to actually solve them in a way that’s not comedic in anime, let alone base a good chunk of the plot on it. And the exaggerated nature of said faults helps a little as well. That conversation Hanabi had with those two girls regarding which boy one of them should choose and the kinda ludicrous circumstances surrounding the decision really got my attention.

Oh yeah, this is totally how “not-sex friends” behave

People have been telling me that the manga for this is kinda crap and maybe that’s true, but anime-wise I’d say Scum’s Wish is an alright show so far. The twisted characterization won’t appeal to everyone and there’s still seven more episodes left, but so far this is the first time in forever I’ve seen a romance show that actually centers its plot on issues people face when it comes to relationships and such, as well as one with such a unique outlook on the matter. Whether or not these issues are relatable or all that realistic is a different story altogether, but for now, I’m glad to have found an anime this season I’m actually looking forward to watching.

Minor Quips

  • Amazon streaming is where anime go to die, isn’t it?
  • Scum’s Wish is apparently still going despite wrapping up some major relationship issues, so maybe that’s where a lot of the negativity comes from.
  • I really do not recommend Uwakoi, as it’s a really really REALLY evil manga with empty hatred and way too many sex scenes.

6 responses to “Scum’s Wish: An Exercise In Self-Aware Shamelessness

  1. I ended up resorting to reading the manga because this is streaming on Amazon. I’m actually kind of enjoying the manga which given I hate reading manga is all kinds of surprising and from what people have said about the anime it seems like it is mostly following along with a few minor changes.
    This story just feels a bit different to the usual kind of anime romance and I think that is appealing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Remember when I asked you on MAL why you decided to read Uwakoi? Well to be honest, it doesn’t matter if you do because this blog post further helped me to understand why.

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